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HomeGuideWeisman’s ‘Surf Report’: Caught in the undertow

Weisman’s ‘Surf Report’: Caught in the undertow


“Surf Report”

La Jolla Playhouse

When: Previews commence Tuesday. Opens June 20. Schedule: Tuesdays-Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, eight p.m. Saturdays, two and eight p.m. Sundays, two and 7 p.m., by way of July 11.

Exactly where: La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Forum, UCSD campus.

Tickets: $31-$66

Telephone: (858) 550-1010

On the net:

When Annie Weisman was developing up in Del Mar, the ocean didn’t need any mythical Sirens to pimp the waves. Just a loudspeaker squawking in a higher-college homeroom.

“At Torrey Pines, we had a surf report in the morning announcements,” recalls the playwright and member of the Falcons Class of ’91. “That was type of ironic, for the reason that you are not supposed to be encouraging individuals to leave college and surf.

“‘Surf is 2 to 3 foot, fair shape. Now stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.’”

Weisman managed to resist that unique lure she in no way took up surfing, and when she completed college, she also blew town for superior, heading for Williams College in Massachusetts and research at Oxford in England, then progressively crafting her present life as a Television and stage writer in L.A.

But like the renegade daughter in her new play “Surf Report,” who tends to make a mission of leaving San Diego behind and then is drawn back by “this gravitational pull, a tidal pull, that’s inescapable,” Weisman finds she cannot really get the spot out of her veins.

“I think I certainly do relate to the daughter’s need to identify herself by escape,” Weisman acknowledges on a rehearsal break at La Jolla Playhouse, exactly where “Surf Report” starts its globe-premiere run this week.

“But then, look, I write about home, so I find myself drawn constantly back here — creatively, intellectually, in every way.”

Her new play is that rarity: A significant stage piece set in San Diego. Beyond some locally minded plays San Diego Rep has created more than the years (most notably “Culture Clash in Bordertown”), and the topical revues identified as “Caught in the Act” that the Old Globe did decades ago, it is difficult to come up with other examples.

The most prominent occurs to be yet another play by Weisman: “Be Aggressive,” which premiered at the Playhouse in 2001 and place her on the skilled theatrical map (although she produced an early splash by winning the San Diego-primarily based Playwrights Project’s annual contest for young dramatists).

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“Be Aggressive,” a dark comedy about a cheerleader reeling from family members crisis in a wealthy seaside town, had roots in Weisman’s personal coming-of-age as a member of the Torrey Pines spirit squad.

The play was a accomplishment in La Jolla, became a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (honoring female dramatists) and has given that been staged about the nation.

“The (San Diego) community just completely embraced it,” Weisman says of that expertise. “They were delighted and surprised to see a play that was about them. And even the critical aspects of it were a delight to people, I think. Because it’s an unusual thing to have a play that kind of takes seriously this community. People don’t do it.”

“Surf Report” requires the regional connection even additional. Even though “Be Aggressive” was set in a spot with the thinly euphemistic name Vista del Sol, the new play is set explicitly in Weisman’s hometown.

“It’s very San Diego-based — there’s a lot that people are going to recognize,” says Christopher Ashley, who chose the play to open his third season as Playhouse artistic director. “And it type of explores what’s delightful and frustrating about the type of new wealth in the startup economy (right here).

“It feels very rooted in the now in San Diego and La Jolla.”

Energy and powerlessness

However “Surf Report” didn’t in fact get its get started right here: It was commissioned by South Coast Rep in Orange County. Right after a production failed to materialize there, the Playhouse created the piece additional by way of a series of workshops.

Directed by Lisa Peterson, a former Playhouse artistic associate and favored Weisman collaborator (the playwright praises her “sly, deceptive way of getting inside a play”), “Surf Report” centers on yet another affluent but dysfunctional family members.

The mom, Judith (Linda Gehringer, who appeared in the globe premieres of each “Be Aggressive” and Weisman’s workplace comedy “Hold Please”), has practically signed more than her life as an assistant to Bruce (Television and film star Gregory Harrison), a venture capitalist and surfing fanatic.

Bruce is, in Weisman’s words, “the sun that the play revolves around.” Left in the shadows are Judith’s husband, Hal (Broadway veteran Matthew Arkin), and daughter, Bethany (UCSD graduate acting student Zoë Chao). Also in the image: Jena, a former higher-college classmate of Bethany’s, played by Liv Rooth (noticed lately in “Boeing-Boeing” at the Old Globe).

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The character of Bruce was inspired in component by the phenomenon of sudden wealth that Weisman witnessed as a kid.

“My dad was a medical doctor and a professor at UCSD, and there have been a handful of individuals in that grouping who had grow to be billionaires. One particular thought, 1 patent, and they have been abruptly wealthy and strong. The notion that this was achievable was component of the culture a small bit.

“So the play is about that, but also about energy and powerlessness. Here’s this guy who has this massive access and energy, and it is pretty desirable. What occurs to an individual who gets drawn into that, especially a lady? Due to the fact (Judith) gets type of addicted to this proximity to energy, and provides up a lot of her personal issues and requirements and responsibilities.

“The play really deals with the fallout on her family from that.”

Accurate to its title, the play also offers with surfing – one thing else that hasn’t noticed a complete lot of stage time (perhaps for the reason that the sport is a small challenging to dramatize). Reports on wave circumstances are interspersed by way of the perform.

Weisman’s exposure to surfing in Del Mar was mainly secondhand, by way of a wave-craving brother (now a effective surf-sector lawyer) and a similarly obsessed boyfriend. But its energy more than individuals clearly stayed with her.

“Surfing becomes a metaphor through the play,” Weisman says. “(The surf reports) act as a kind of gauge for what’s going on in the story. There’s a theme in the play about control and being able to predict what the tides and weather are going to bring. And who can (do that) and who can’t.”

One particular aspect of surf culture fascinated Weisman in unique the contrast amongst common image and the substantially extra complicated reality.

“When I went to school on the East Coast and in England, there was such a clichéd perspective on Southern California culture,” she says. “(Individuals didn’t grasp) the notion that there are some of the most brilliant scientific and technical minds operating right here. And that surf culture is not just suntan lotion, marijuana and surfboards.

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“It’s also individuals who either study oceanography and science, or they’re type of spiritually engaged in ocean cycles and currents and the notion of getting component of this huge, strong power that the ocean represents.

“I think that kind of opposition interested me. You’re always looking for those tensions as a dramatist. And that was very much about this place.”

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Harrison, identified ideal for his a lot of Television credits (such as “Trapper John, M.D.”), also appeared in the 1987 cult surf classic “North Shore” and directed its water sequences. Not only that, he is a lifelong surfer who has been hitting the waves almost each day when right here for the production.

When it comes to surfing, Weisman gets it, Harrison says. But “none of her characters are quick. You can inform, without having seeing a name above the line (in the script), which character is speaking. Due to the fact only 1 of these characters could be saying that factor that way. That is actually superior writing.

“And she’s created this character for me that’s so much fun. The journey I’m on as an actor is so entertaining that I can’t imagine it won’t be at least somewhat entertaining for the audience as well, you know?”

Exciting appears to have its spot in “Surf Report” – Weisman says she and Peterson like to contact it “a comedy with a sad ending.”

“I think of it as a provocative play, and comedy is the method for provocation that I use,” says Weisman, who’s now a employees writer for “Desperate Housewives,” 1 of the extra provocative humor-laced shows on Television.

But “Be Aggressive” had a Greek chorus of cheerleaders and some fizz to match its bite. Weisman’s return to the locations of her youth sounds a small extra sober-minded, like a cold splash of ocean water on a balmy summer time day.

“The tone of this play is a little different,” she says. “ ‘Be Aggressive’ was a extra heightened globe, that had slightly extra fantastical components. And this is extra realistic.

“But I still feel that the language, the relationships are theatrical. It’s not gritty realism. I haven’t changed my point of view in the world. I write the way I write.”


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